I didn’t always like running. In fact, I hated running and disliked my gym teachers for forcing me to do things I believed I was bad at and ashamed to do in public. Kind of dramatic, I know, but coming in last week after week did not do wonders for my self-esteem.
So when I finally picked up running for myself, consistently this time, I was reclaiming my voice and discovering myself all over again.
It was exhilarating, but only because it became exhilarating. I used to only be able to run a mile before I thought I was getting ready to experience the apocalypse!
Becoming stronger was exciting and I loved it. After all, I was doing things I never thought I could do.
Running saved me before I even knew it did. On those runs, I was able to put the mute button on all the naysayers in my life. In that silence, I found solace.
So a few years ago when I was facing a lot of disappointment and needed an out, I picked up running again. Only this time, I got serious. I decided to train for my first half. In only eight weeks!
I embarked on one of the most hectic training schedules I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t even appreciate that at the time. I was determined to reach my goals, even if I ran myself into the ground.
My first half marathon felt magical to me. I felt like I was falling in love for the first time all over again, this time in 2.5 hours. I immediately caught the race bug-I was hooked. I was chasing those emotions of joy, fearlessness, strength, and accomplishment that I hadn’t felt in years. Running gave me so much; I just knew I had to keep going.
After my first half marathon, my life became all about running and racing. In 2017, I had a very intense race calendar with a minimum of one race per month for six months! I knew that it would be hard work, but I was so excited that I didn’t think about it. I researched healthy meals, training plans, and optimal rest times. I thought I was ready.
However, my body wasn’t ready. When I look back at my many race pictures from last year, they only tell half of the story. During most of last year, I was running through pain. Heel pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, ankle pain, foot pain, and shin splints. Something always hurt. I can’t count how many evenings I came in from work, ate dinner, and lied in bed with an ice pack because it became a daily ritual after a certain point.
As a runner, former ballet dancer, and athlete, I’m loath to acknowledge pain. I often look at it as a sign of weakness and something that needs to be pushed through. Deep down, I know that pain is a signal to rest, but more often than not, that little voice in my head that got me through all those pointe practices when I was trying to put all of my bodyweight on one toe while smiling takes over. Needless to say, I ignored all of the signs and thought that with enough ice, I’d be ok.
I went through a period last year where I couldn’t do burpees or any other exercises that incorporated jumping because of my shin splints. Instead of changing my training schedule, I kept going because I wanted to run my races and PR. And when I finally did PR, I just continued to ignore the signs that something was wrong. I thought my fitness plan was working. After all, I was running faster than I ever had in my life!
Fast forward to this year, things have gotten better than they were in the past. I was finally able to transition away from some of the things that were leading me to race in the first place. My runner’s high has died down a bit, and I am honestly acknowledging my overuse injuries. Interestingly enough, I discovered that once I exceed about 15 miles a week, I start experiencing pain of some sort. I’ve read countless articles that describe how to increase your mileage weekly so that you don’t get hurt, but it’s been over two years and I can’t seem to increase my mileage without injury.
I don’t know what my running future holds anymore. It’s scary to me to think that I may have to walk away from something so close to me that has become a part of who I am. But I’m not just training so that I can run the next race, I’m training for life.
I know that I could continue down this path of pushing myself to do halfs, but what would be the purpose? The sense of accomplishment? It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for me to feel accomplished and successful when I think about how I was in a constant state of pain. I believe soreness is inevitable at times, but I don’t think everything should be hurting this much.
I don’t know what, if anything, can bring the excitement of racing. There’s just something about the camaraderie of the runners that makes it an unparalleled experience.
I never expected to reach this point with running. I always thought that I would just go outside, hop on the trail, and do my thing.
I think I’m finally going to take some time to figure out whether I’ve just hit a two year plateau or if there’s a real reason why I can’t increase my mileage without problems.
Until then, I think I might take a break from long races.